Best coffeeshops for entertainment

From comedy shows and book clubs to musical performances and trivia nights, these spots offer more than just a cup of joe.

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  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

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  • Photograph: Naomi Ellenson

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  • Photograph: Naomi Ellenson

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  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

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Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

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Birch Coffee
This laid-back Flatiron spot has generated a strong following for its popover-like apple-and-goat-cheese muffins, overall dedication to sustainability and, as of late, its Mish Mosh comedy nights (Thu 9 at 8pm; free). In the intimate upstairs library, comics Gaby Dunn and Gonzalo Cordova host a mix of pros and newbies, each of whom gets about ten minutes to tell jokes and share embarrassing personal mishaps. Try not to spill your chocolate-and-raspberry-laced Honduran Finca Liquidambar Catuai drip (small $2, medium $2.75, large $3.25) as you laugh. Gershwin Hotel, 5 E 27th St between Fifth and Madison Aves (212-686-1444, birchcoffee.com). Visit website for full calendar.

Common Grounds
Overstuffed couches and chairs in the back of this bright, modern joint provide prime seating for the well-attended weekend events. Spend a Friday night listening to aspiring poets read original works organized around a central theme (Dec 17 6:30pm; free) or, if you're feeling festive, belt out your best "Jingle Bells" at the holiday-themed karaoke nights happening every Saturday through the rest of the month (6--9pm; free). The menu standout is a subtly spiced pumpkin latte ($3.25) that puts others to shame—sweet but not cloying, with just a hint of fall flavor peeking through the deep Porto Rico Importing roast. 376 Tompkins Ave between Jefferson and Putnam Aves, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn (718-484-4368, commongroundsny.com)

East Harlem Cafe
A strong sense of neighborhood pride is evident in the varied programming at Michelle Cruz's relaxed newcomer. Monthly book club meetings often highlight works by residents of El Barrio or other Hispanic authors, and musical performances typically showcase neighborhood artists. Grab a table by the oversize windows in front and order the Cuban espresso ($1.75), a small but potent shot of pecan-tinged Finger Lakes dark java brewed with one packet of raw sugar poured directly over the grounds before they're filtered. 1651 Lexington Ave at 104th St (212-996-2080, eastharlemcafe.com). Visit website for full calendar.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
True to its altruistic roots, the library-like Housing Works often hosts events with a humanitarian or philanthropic bent, such as panel discussions about HIV-related health issues and concerts that raise funds for homelessness and AIDS-prevention initiatives. Small weekly shows spotlight rising stars, but it's the monthly Live from Home benefit concerts that really pack the house. Next up: British singer-songwriter Bobby Long (Thu 9 at 7pm; $20). Imbibe a Red Eye (small $2.50, large $3, iced $4.50)—brewed with Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso—while you're listening to the crooner's latest tracks. 26 Crosby St between E Houston and Prince Sts (212-334-3324, housingworks.org). Visit website for full calendar.

Little Skips
Mismatched tables and chairs, exposed brick walls and antique copper chandeliers lend a casual Brooklyn-meets-California vibe to this indie shop. Artsy patrons from the surrounding blocks flock here every Thursday for the popular live-music nights showcasing homegrown, globally influenced talent. Coffee purists can stick to an expertly poured macchiato ($2.75), which gets its slightly citrusy undertones from Counter Culture joe. We'll take the Bushwick egg cream ($3.25), an espresso-laden, chocolate-syrup drizzled riff on the New York classic. 941 Willoughby Ave at Myrtle Ave, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-484-0980, littleskips.com). Live music every Thu at 8pm; free.

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